LAYTON — The past year, says Scott Freitag, has been wrenching, eye-opening and humbling.
After his arrest on Jan. 3, 2018, for driving under the influence, he lost his job as director of Salt Lake City 911, the city’s emergency dispatch center. He lost friends. He held onto his post as a member of the Layton City Council, received support from some of his colleagues at City Hall.
But still, he said, it wasn’t easy.
“I was so ashamed that I lost any desire to be seen in public. I nearly lost everything,” he said in an email Wednesday. “It was the darkest time in my life.”
Ultimately, he was sentenced to three days of jail and 72 hours of community service on the drunken-driving charge, which garnered headlines across Utah. But Freitag didn’t leave it at that. He’s fought over the last year to redeem himself, and on Tuesday, he received a seeming measure of validation for all he’s done — the council tabbed him in a split vote to serve as Layton mayor through 2019, replacing Bob Stevenson. Stevenson won election last November to a seat on the Davis County Commission and was sworn in to the new post on Jan. 7.
“I’m incredibly humbled that my fellow council members trust me enough to give me the opportunity to serve. My actions will reflect on them and the entire city and I feel the weight of that mantle and those expectations,” Freitag said.
As mayor, Freitag — who had been in his third term as a city council member — said he will push for completion this year of the city’s updated master plan, meant to lay the groundwork for expected growth in years to come. He also wants to fill a proposed community relations post in the city to improve communication with citizens and businesses.
Layton is the largest city in Davis County, with 76,691 residents as of 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. It trails only Ogden in size in Weber and Davis counties.
But after all he’s gone through — the shame, jail, random drug tests, counseling, participation in a 12-step program and more — Freitag’s aspirations extend beyond the confines of city government. He continues with his recovery and hopes to demonstrate that redemption is possible.
Through “words and actions,” he said, he hopes to “set an example to someone else that may have made the same mistake as me and show that, no matter what, if you work hard enough, good people will let you re-earn their trust and respect while you re-earn your dignity.”
Freitag garnered three of five votes in a secret ballot of the city council to be tabbed mayor, according to Kimberly Read, the Layton recorder. She didn’t say who received the other two votes, but the other candidates were two other city council members, Joyce Brown and Joy Petro, along with Renny Knowlton and Jackie Malan.
Layton voters in November will pick a mayor to lead the city for the final two years of Stevenson’s mayoral term, 2020 and 2021. Freitag plans to sit out that election.
“I’ve heard that there may be interest from some council members to run and I wanted to be able to serve in this position without the encumbrances of also running for the position. I want to give all of those that may run a fair and equitable shot at it, without competing against the incumbent mayor,” he said.
BLOOD-ALCOHOL LEVEL OF 0.214
Freitag was pulled over while traveling on Interstate 15 in Davis County on Jan. 3, 2018, by a Centerville police officer after the official noticed his car traveling in an “erratic manner.” The officer found an open alcohol container in Freitag’s vehicle as well as a handgun in the auto’s center console. A subsequent breath test revealed he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.214, more than double the legal limit at the time and more than four times the current legal limit, 0.05.
The response was swift. As an elected official and head of Salt Lake City’s 911 center, the arrest garnered broad media coverage. He was fired the next day from his job managing Salt Lake City 911 and received a sharp rebuke from Salt Lake City Mayor Jacqueline Biskupski.
“There is no acceptable reason for anyone to put innocent lives in danger by getting behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated, especially an individual leading a critical public safety agency,” she said in a statement at the time.
Looking back, Freitag calls getting in the car that day in his inebriated state the “biggest mistake” of his life given the potential to hurt someone and cause harm. But he also credits the subsequent turn of events with helping him remake his life.
“After the arrest, I immediately began seeking help from anyone and everything that I could. I apologized, repeatedly. My first stop was to see my bishop. The second was to seek help from my personal physician,” he said. He pledged the same day of his arrest to learn from the mistake, to get sober and to acquire better coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures of life.
He now works as operations manager for the Weber Area Dispatch 911 and Emergency Services District, which handles emergency dispatch calls for Weber and Morgan counties.
But the process of recovery and redemption continues. He takes medicine each day that would make him “violently ill” if he were to drink alcohol. He’s still actively involved in his recovery program. He’s learned to lean on his support network to keep him on track.
In short, he’s grateful at having a second chance, but also realizes that the story isn’t over.
“I know enough now that the moment I fail to keep myself healthy, motivated and supported that I can easily fall,” he said. “Knowing that, I’ve committed to everyone I know, everyone I have a responsibility to, that with them I will not fail again.”
The Layton City Council will now be tasked with picking a replacement to serve out the rest of Freitag’s term on the council, which goes through 2019. He was first elected to the council in 2007 and re-elected in 2011 and 2015.